05. Wrongful Conviction Appeals
Wrongful Conviction Appeals Services
If you are looking for a competent appellate attorney in a child abuse case, we can try to help you locate such an attorney. We have dealt with competent attorneys in virtually every state.
We only work in cooperation with, and under the auspices of, appellate counsel, not in an adversarial or oversight role. We are not attorneys. We offer assistance, primarily in child abuse cases, based upon lay expertise.
We review all records and transcripts, including a copy of the attorney file and any other documents related to the case. We will not just review documents that support the defendant’s position. We need an entire set of documents.
After preliminary legal research, we will list viable appeals issues for, and under the auspices of, the attorney of record.
After the first consult with the appellate attorney and seeing what issues he/she feels are viable, we will conduct in-depth legal research. Then, after consulting with the appellate attorney again, we will conduct further research and start developing the arguments in conjunction with the attorney of record for selected issues.
All writings pertaining to the brief will be conducted under attorney work-product. We work only in conjunction with, and under the auspices of, the attorney of record. We do not assist pro se litigants.
If the case is for post-conviction relief, or is a motion for new trial, we will assist in obtaining the right experts for involvement and assist in compiling the proper attachments to any brief.
If oral arguments are later scheduled, we will assist the attorney in preparing for the oral arguments. We will even attempt to be present for the oral arguments.
You can assume that we will put in a minimum of 100 hours for each step of any appeal. This will entail reviewing of all the records/transcripts, legal research, and writing out of arguments. We do not “cut and paste” legal cases or arguments. We do not plagiarize other appeals briefs and submit them as our work. Case law is constantly changing, and every case has it’s unique set of facts to incorporate.
Since many of the legal issues raised on appeal transcend beyond child abuse cases, we occasionally will work on non-child abuse related appeals.
Basic Facts About Appeals
A low percentage of appeals are successfully overturned and remanded for a retrial.
The percentages for success decrease with each subsequent appeal.
State Supreme Courts hear less than 8% of all discretionary appeals.
Direct Appeals are the first set of appeals after the trial. The direct appeal is designed to argue error(s) that exist in court filings and transcripts. In most situations, you are guaranteed appellate counsel if you financially qualify as indigent for your direct appeals.
Post-Conviction Relief, or PCR (some states use different terms and initials), is to argue error(s) that do not appear on the record. Generally, you are not guaranteed appointed counsel for a PCR. Additionally, many states have strict time-deadlines for filing this action that might necessitate this appeal being perfected while your direct appeal is still pending.
If you ever eventually file in Federal Court, you must exhaust all state remedies (including post-conviction relief) in order to ‘have standing’ to file an appeal. If you did not, the Federal Court will generally dismiss your appeal.
With some appeals, there is the additional cost of hiring an investigator, and/or obtaining affidavits, and/or hiring an expert or experts to review the case, possibly write a report, and testify if an evidentiary hearing is granted.
It is rare to find any attorney or expert willing to take a case “pro bono”. Attorneys who have been successful in reversing convictions are constantly bombarded with requests for free help.
Appeals properly done are very time-consuming. The amount of time an attorney is willing to put into a case is many times determinative of what they are paid. If a lawyer quotes an unusually low fee, be suspicious.
Many innocent people are in prison. The fact that the person is innocent should make the attorney work harder, but this fact will not make him/her work for free.
If you rely on the State to pay for your appeal, most likely you will receive minimal assistance.
About Todd James – Senior Appellate Writer
Over the past 14 years, I have reviewed hundreds of appeals cases, and in the process, have been able to digest the various approaches and legal arguments that have been utilized by hundreds of different lawyers. It is my opinion that most appeals overlook viable issues and have a tendency to raise issues that have virtually no chance of being successful. For example, “manifest weight of the evidence” and “sufficiency of the evidence” arguments have virtually no chance of overturning the conviction. If those are the main issues in an appeal, the chances of winning are slim to none. If those issues are raised in a collateral role of trying to help frame the mind-set of the appellate judges for a viable issue, then there may be a place in your appeal for them. Remember, an alleged victim’s testimony, if believed by the trier of fact, is sufficient to convict someone (regardless of whether the alleged victim’s pretrial statements and trial testimony are contradictory).
Many appellate attorneys who are doing a direct appeal will often tell you that they are only interested in reading the transcripts of the trial. Many of them will not want to obtain and review the original attorney file, since it is not ‘part of the record’. Prosecutors sometimes fail to provide the defendant with all favorable or exculpatory evidence that they have. The practice of an appellate attorney not reviewing the original attorney file is plainly wrong. Brady Material (favorable and/or exculpatory evidence) can many times be gleaned from materials that were in the original case file.
For example, the original trial attorney may have been provided statements or reports that could indicate that prior interviews were conducted with an alleged victim or important witness. The prosecution did not provide the prior interviews because he/she did not feel or believe that the prior interviews were “favorable” to the defendant. Yet, those prior interviews could have been the evidence to show changes in the alleged victims story, contradictions with the trial testimony of a witness, and so on. Since the majority of sexual abuse convictions hinge on the credibility of the accuser, any evidence that discredits the accuser's credibility could have impacted the verdict. While many appellate attorneys would argue that these are “post-conviction issues”, we would submit that they could provide support, for example, of ineffective assistance of counsel on the direct appeal.